Muammar Gaddafi’s forces pushed relentlessly eastwards toward Libyan rebels’ stronghold of Benghazi on Tuesday, while world powers wrangled over a draft resolution to impose a no-fly zone.
Gaddafi appeared at an evening rally in a huge tent in Tripoli, condemning the rebels as rats, dogs, hypocrites and traitors. As he spoke, thousands gathered in a Benghazi square denouncing him as a tyrant and throwing shoes and other objects at his image projected upside down on a wall.
The rebels’ eastern capital looked highly vulnerable after government troops took control of the junction at Ajdabiyah, opening the way to Benghazi.
“The town of Ajdabiyah has been cleansed of mercenaries and terrorists linked to the al Qaeda organization,” state TV said, referring to the rebels fighting to end Gaddafi’s 41 years of absolute power.
Foreign powers condemn his crackdown, but show little appetite for action to support an uprising that was inspired by pro-democracy rebellions that toppled the Egyptian and Tunisian presidents. Many in the Arab world may fear a Gaddafi victory and a crackdown on protests in Bahrain could turn the tide in the region.
Looking ahead with confidence to future business deals in a Gaddafi-led Libya, deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim said Libya will honor existing contracts with Western oil companies and that the crisis may influence future cooperation with them.
Kaim also told Reuters that the government hoped to regain control over all rebel-held territory within days.
Events on the ground are quickly overtaking diplomacy.
A U.N. Security Council draft resolution on a no-fly zone, seen by Reuters, authorizes “all necessary measures to enforce” a ban on all flights, to protect civilians.
The 15-nation body is not expected to vote on the draft on Tuesday, as most member states will need time to consult with their capitals about the no-fly zone, diplomats told Reuters.
Veto powers Russia, China and the United States, along with Portugal, Germany and South Africa are among the members that have doubts about the idea of a no-fly zone for Libya.